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Brittney Griner Receives Emotional Standing Ovation With Surprise Appearance At NAACP Awards

The WNBA star and her wife Cherelle were introduced by Queen Latifah in a moment about 'overcoming adversity' as Black people.

Cherelle Griner and Brittney Griner
Leon Bennett/Getty Images for BET

Basketball star Brittney Griner received an emotional standing ovation after making a surprise appearance at this weekend's NAACP Awards and using the moment to advocate for people currently detained in foreign countries.

Griner's appearance at the awards show was her most high-profile one yet since the Biden administration secured her release in a prisoner exchange with Russia, freeing her from the penal colony she'd been sent to after she was sentenced to nine years on smuggling charges.

Griner and her wife were introduced by performer Queen Latifah, who praised her as someone who personifies "the spirit of overcoming adversity."

You can watch the moment Brittney and Cherelle Griner took the stage below.

Cherelle Griner thanked the audience for the "beautiful applause," adding:

"We are just truly so thankful to all the people, many of whom are Black women and Black-led organizations, who fought so hard to bring BG home."

Griner then thanked her wife and expressed her support for Americans who are still imprisoned overseas:

"It feels so good to be here, especially with my beautiful, amazing wife, and with all of you all here today."
"I want to thank everyone, and let's keep fighting to bring home every American still detained overseas."

Griner later thanked the NAACP in an Instagram post, saying she's been "Humbled from the love shown by my people."

Many appreciated Griner's comments and celebrated the moment as an example of her strength and resilience.

Griner, a professional basketball player for the Phoenix Mercury of the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA), was detained by Russian customs after cartridges containing less than an ounce of hashish oil for personal use were found in her luggage.

American officials expressed concern Russia was using her as leverage in response to the Western sanctions imposed against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. News outlets reported over the summer the American government offered to swap Griner and fellow prisoner Paul Whelan for Viktor Bout, a convicted Russian arms trafficker.

Ultimately, Russia agreed to swap Griner for Bout, an entrepreneur and former Soviet military translator who reportedly used his multiple air transport companies to smuggle weapons since the collapse of the Soviet Union from Eastern Europe to Africa and the Middle East during the 1990s and early 2000s.

In 2011, Bout was convicted by a jury in a Manhattan federal court of conspiracy to kill U.S. citizens and officials, delivery of anti-aircraft missiles, and providing aid to a terrorist organization, and was sentenced to 25 years' imprisonment of which he served 11 years at the time of his release.

These facts have enraged right-wingers who suggested Griner deserved to stay in Russia and Democratic President Joe Biden should have prioritized securing the release of Whelan and Marc Fogel, a teacher who was arrested and later sentenced for trying to enter Russia with about half an ounce of medical marijuana he had been prescribed in the U.S. for chronic pain.